Your place in the sun – two tropical paradises

Looking for Winter Sun?
Travel to Sri Lanka & South India with Marieke 

INTELLIGENT, ELEGANT, PROFESSIONAL TOURS FOR THE MIND & SENSES

In voting Sri Lanka as their top country destination in 2019, Lonely Planet had this to say about the ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean’ – Sri Lanka is decidedly having its moment in the equatorial sun and change is coming swiftly. Already notable to intrepid travellers for its mix of religions and cultures, its timeless temples, its rich and accessible wildlife, its growing surf scene and its people who defy all odds by their welcome and friendliness after decades of civil conflict, this is a country revived.
Having visited annually the last six years, it is clear that rapid modernisation is bringing many challenges – the impact of international investment vs the preservation of heritage; urban encroachment vs habitat for wildlife; large scale hotel coastal development vs conservation of natural beauty.
Now is certainly the best time to explore Sri Lanka’s allure, culture, history and natural beauty – before this jewel of an island is irrevocably changed.

In the traveller’s mind, India can seem daunting – the crowds, the noise, the cacophony, the riotous colour. Anyone inquisitive about the fascinating subcontinent would be well served by considering a ‘soft’ landing in this wonderful country by visiting the South because it is more gentle and relaxing and less challenging than the north.
Shielded from the maddening aspects of solo travelling in India, guests can immerse themselves in the richness and myriad contrasts of the Malabar to Coromandel Coasts, from the Western Ghats, with verdant tropical scenery, impressive tea and coffee plantations, lush spice groves, captivating wildlife sanctuaries, to the magical Kerala “backwaters” network of rivers, lagoons, canals and traditional village life. Enjoy diverse cultures as we cross three States, each with distinctive traditions and exquisite architectural jewels, staying in India’s most eco-conscious hotels.

If you are looking to escape the southern winter then I invite you to join me in one of these fabulous destinations where the food is seriously good, the people are specially warm, the accommodations mostly heritage boutique.
We bring to both programs many years of experience, connection and familiarity that will prise open the unexpected, allowing you to float above and beneath the tourist veil.

GEMS SRI LANKA

7-19 June 2019

Sri Lanka has stunning UNESCO sites, beautiful Buddhist shrines, glorious sculpted tea gardens, glistening white-sand beaches, verdant hill country and dry savannah – a kaleidoscope of landscapes and experiences across short distances.
This luxury journey is now in its seventh edition and there is much to enthral the visitor.

Our journey begins in the capital Colombo where you enjoy an historic walk in the old Fort area, visit the home of the renowned architect Geoffrey Bawa, have your first taste of Sri Lankan spices in a gorgeous courtyard restaurant and rest your head in a swank boutique hotel.
The next few nights you are in the “Golden Triangle” to visit Sigirya, the World Heritage site of Polonnaruwa, once a sprawling fortified city and the second seat of Sri Lanka’s royal dynasty, and the remarkable caves of Dambulla. An authentic  lunch of multiple dishes will be served in a traditional village where the cooking medium is fire. You’ll also spend time with herds of elephants as they come to drink at dusk in the wildlife sanctuary of Minneriya.

Next is the royal seat of Kandy, renowned for its holy relic the Temple of the Tooth to which devotees flock each evening to much fanfare and drumming. You also visit a superb property where traditional batik is still practised and dine with a Frenchman in his Dutch colonial house where he is custodian of a collection of Sri Lankan artefacts, paintings, books and objets d’arts. Plant lovers will adore the Botanic gardens at Peradeniya.

The Tour passes through scenic, lush hill country to arrive at Yala National Park in the hope of seeing leopard. Two nights are then spent at a salubrious retreat in the low tea country near Lake Koggala where you will learn the intricacies of white tea production and how the island’s most precious spice, cinnamon is harvested. The last two nights are spent inside the famed Galle Fort, residing at the beautiful Aman. Steeped in history and gorgeous colonial architecture, there is much to explore on foot and there will be an excursion to the two Bawa gardens – Brief and Lunuganga – before a final day of R+R in the tranquil embrace of this special hotel and an evening departure for flights home from Colombo.

PEARLS SOUTH INDIA

11-25 August

Now in its 10th Edition

Having travelled in the south many times, Marieke specially loves it for the sweetness of her people, lively living temples, colourful festivals and enticing cuisine. The south feels to have a certain ‘softness’ – maybe it’s the constantly warm climate and verdant landscapes or the sense that so many explorers over so many centuries came, settled, exerted their influence that has left a sense of tolerance and acceptance of diversity. Pondicherry and Fort Kochi are particular favourites for their colonial architecture and languid manners. It is also the home of Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga which has long been her other vocation, thus she has undertaken many retreats and knows the best places.

The program starts in Chennai from where you are whisked down to the coast, so you wake up to the sounds of the ocean. The first morning, visit the remarkable UNESCO protected cave temples and ancient bas-reliefs at Mamallapuram. Later, drive to the charming French outpost of Pondicherry where you stay for three nights in a divine colonial hotel with one of the few pools in town. This is a unique corner of India that remains forever France and is adjoined by the fascinating intentional community of Auroville where you visit several innovative enterprise projects as well as its spiritual centre.
Chettinad is famous for its outstanding cuisine, faded grand mansions, local crafts and antiques. Here you will enjoy a cooking demonstration with the region’s most regarded chefs.

Leaving the dry plains behind, the trip continues through the verdant Western Ghats to reach the spice country and sculpted tea plantations of the highlands.
Lunch at a private estate before heading into the Kerala backwaters where one night is in a hotel and another, floating through the canals and inland lakes where time has stood still.

The last two nights are spent in Fort Kochi. Few towns in India have preserved their colonial charm and colourful multicultural history as well as Fort Kochi (Cochin). A charmingly curious potpourri of Jewish synagogues, Chinese fishing-nets, Portuguese churches, Dutch palaces and British cricket greens, the atmosphere is perceptibly Mediterranean but the climate is characteristically sub-tropical. Here you will dine in a Syrian Christian home, witness the rituals of classical Kathakali, and gaze at the bustling harbour from your gorgeous balcony. The last day is at leisure before your evening departure from Kochi.

Dear Marieke
Thank you for changing my expectations of India. We were lucky, thanks to you and your knowledge of India, in two weeks, to have a variety of wonderful experiences and to leave having a better understanding of Southern India’s history, culture, society, geography, and geology. We were also lucky to have the stylish, regal, knowledgeable Durga-Ji to inspire our thinking, perceptions and knowledge of India. I enjoyed the places that we visited and the fact that most were not part of tourist trails.

Sally C. Sydney
Dearest Marieke,
Now back after another wonderful trip filled with endless colour and beauty, things I love, as simple as smiles on faces so ready to share, a temple glowingly yellow, an elephant engaged in blessing all and sundry, a plate of deliciously fresh organic food, lovingly prepared and served on a banana leaf from the grounds of the hosts plantation. Thank you for making all of this and much much more possible.

Victoria Alexander

CONCIERGE SERVICES FOR YOUR BESPOKE TRAVELS

With well over 25 years travelling around the globe, I have developed a very deep knowledge of some of the world’s most fascinating countries. I have planned romantic honeymoons, grand extravagant celebrations, academic research trips, buying trips, treks and adventures for countless happy travellers, with particular specialisation in India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Kashmir, Morocco and Mexico.
I offer expert services from phone/email consultations to steer you in the right direction and share my valuable contacts to all-encompassing travel arrangements for a once in a lifetime experience. I am also able to negotiate the resurrection of past itineraries for small special interest groups. These include Gastronomic Spain, Provence and Turkey.

 

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